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The Fracking Controversy

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The Fracking Controversy

Post  Panda on Wed 21 Aug - 10:08

Are David Miranda and Caroline Lucas victims or criminals?
The detention of a journalist’s partner and a Green MP reopen the debate over state power

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, and others deliberately crossed the line from protest to interfering with a company  Photo: Rex Features
By Dominic Raab
7:59PM BST 20 Aug 2013
230 Comments
At Heathrow, border officials detain the partner of a whistle-blowing journalist, prompting huge uproar. In Balcombe, anti-fracking protesters – including a Green Party MP – are arrested, prompting an equally furious reaction. In both cases, the balance between state power and personal freedom is under renewed scrutiny. So how worried should we be?

In 1859, Britain’s most celebrated thinker on freedom, John Stuart Mill, articulated the common-sense principle that state power should only be used to curtail individual liberty “to prevent harm to others”. Today, that acid test remains as good a guide as any.

Take the case of David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, a Guardian journalist who has written a stream of disturbing stories about US state surveillance. Mr Miranda was held for nine hours at Heathrow under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, which allows detention in airports and ports to ascertain whether an individual is engaged in terrorist activity.

This broad power was passed into law in 2000, as concerns about terrorism mounted. Alarmingly, the normal safeguards – notably a concrete suspicion of criminal behaviour – don’t apply. If you refuse to answer questions, that itself is a crime for which you can be prosecuted. The vulnerability of airports and ports to attack arguably merited stronger police powers. But they are also iconic symbols of our personal freedom to travel. It would be wrong if they instead became a legal limbo, where arbitrary power is wielded without proper accountability.

Using the Mill test, did Mr Miranda pose any conceivable threat? It’s difficult to see how. The best the Home Office could muster was: “If the police believe that an individual is in possession of highly sensitive stolen information that would help terrorism, then they should act.”

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This suggests that the authorities picked Miranda up because he might have held further details (possibly gathered by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden) on US and British surveillance systems, disclosing the true scale of their snooping. In short, a power to protect airports from attack has morphed into a shield to save governments from embarrassment.

On terrorism, as with so many of Labour’s laws, well-intentioned but overly broad powers have been stretched to cover wider purposes, exposing ordinary people to arbitrary interference. Over the past two years, Schedule 7 has been exercised to stop and question people a staggering 143,018 times – but there were just nine prosecutions and only five convictions. Not only does this suggest the power is being misused, it is a shocking waste of police resources.

The Home Secretary is already reviewing ordinary stop-and-search because she fears it is undermining public confidence and wasting police time. In July, she pointed out that just 9 per cent of the 1.2 million people stopped were arrested, despite consuming 312,000 police hours. For exactly the same reasons, she should order a review of Schedule 7.

But what about Balcombe? Isn’t the arrest of 25 anti-fracking protesters equally outrageous? Well, no. These people were illegally blockading a road leading to a drilling site. Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, and others deliberately crossed the line from protest to interfering with a company, its workers and other members of the public going about their lawful business. The protesters’ pious claims to martyrdom look immature in the extreme, especially since they would have screamed blue murder at a similar siege of the construction site for a wind turbine.

Direct action can sometimes be justified: Ghandi led sit-ins and civil disobedience, and Mandela organised acts of sabotage. But both were acting in systems that shut the majority out of politics. Lucas deployed a similar line yesterday, claiming that the protesters had tried to use the “democratic processes” but resorted to militant action because “the Government isn’t listening”.

Has the democratic process failed to scrutinise fracking? Hardly. In the past year, Parliament held at least six debates. Ministers made four oral statements, followed by lengthy probing by MPs, and separately answered 66 oral questions. The industry has published a community engagement charter; the Government is consulting on how much of the revenue from fracking should be returned to communities; and legislation will be introduced, and assessed by Parliament, in due course. This is a far cry from colonial India or apartheid South Africa.

Britain faces a major energy shortfall in the next three years. Shale gas is part of a common-sense strategy to meet that challenge. An independent report by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering rubbished the scaremongering, concluding that the risks of earthquakes or aquifer contamination are very low, and can be managed by proper regulation. Nor are the eco-spoilers representative of some silent majority. A recent poll found that a majority support fracking – even if it is located near them.

The fact is, there has been plenty of democratic oversight, and there will be more to come. Lucas and her disciples just don’t like the outcome. They are losing the argument, so have resorted to behaving like spoilt children. As Mill argued more than 150 years ago, the law should safeguard our individual freedoms from arbitrary abuse – but it must also protect us from bullying by militant minorities.


Dominic Raab is Conservative MP for Esher and Walton

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Re: The Fracking Controversy

Post  Panda on Wed 4 Sep - 6:51

Cuadrilla, the engineering Company appointed to explore the possibility of fracking has announced it is not proceeding nor looking at any other possible sites. This must be as a result of the huge protest which they obviously did not expect.

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Re: The Fracking Controversy

Post  Panda on Sat 9 Nov - 9:29


By James Kirkup

9:45PM GMT 08 Nov 2013

Comments312 Comments





Households “right across the South” should prepare for gas fracking to begin in their areas, a senior minister has warned.


Michael Fallon says that in the next few weeks, a study by the water industry will conclude that fracking will not contaminate the water supply.


He told The Telegraph that places such as Wiltshire, Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex will become centres of the potential source of energy. The Conservative minister, who has posts at the business and energy departments, said Britain had the scope to emulate US states such as Texas in exploiting shale gas.


Mr Fallon also pledged to block wind farms, saying that only one in three sites is being approved following planning restrictions.


In other comments, he said energy bills would be “pegged back” when the Coalition cuts green levies on power next month, and that the Conservatives could fight the next election on a promise to reduce taxes for lower-paid workers by increasing the income tax threshold above £10,000.

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Re: The Fracking Controversy

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